An opening weekend gross of $69 million can buy a lot of bananas. Yet anyone familiar with Planet of the Apes director Tim Burton knows that the preferred fruit of his labor is the satisfaction in presenting an unmistakably unique vision to moviegoers.

"That whole thing about 'successful movies,' 'personal versus studio movies'... It's all the same to me," he attests. "I feel close to every film I make, though there may be a few that feel slightly more personal."

In terms of critical and audience acceptance, "every movie that ever came out from me could have gone either way, as far as my mind was concerned," the auteur behind Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and two Batman films adds. "But there is that pressure — you do hope that you can deliver something."

And what Burton delivered was the biggest non-holiday weekend gross ever, including the biggest Friday haul ($25.1 million) in history. All in all, not bad for a guy who, as a kid, was petrified by those furry, flying monkeys in The Wizard Of Oz.

"I'm terrified of monkeys to begin with, but those had a major impact on me," he recalls with an uneasy laugh. "Chimps, we all think they're cute, right? Nah! I'd rather have a psycho killer living in my house than a chimp. They're crazy, so intense and so strong."

Yet in bringing Apes to life, Burton set aside such phobias for art's sake. "It's nice to face your fears every now and then," he says. "That's what keeps life exciting."